Racing! Handicappers turn their attention this weekend to Las Vegas

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we talk about the biggest handicapping tournament of the year.

We’re going to go a little off script today and talk about a handicapping tournament, something we never do. But the National Horseplayers Championship, heretofore known just as NHC, is going on Friday through Sunday at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

There’s about $3 million in prize money plus some added bonuses if you meet different qualifications, such as where you qualified and what your resume looks like. The big winner gets $800,000 and an Eclipse Award.

Where did the money come from? It’s a combination of entry fees and sort of a rights fee that tracks pay to host a local tournament. There is no entry fee once you get to Las Vegas. Each player gets four nights at Treasure Island and the travel, up to a point, is paid for as well.

There are about 700 spots in the tournament filled by 570 people. Some have earned two entries into the tournament. Now, I’m extremely proud to say that 100% of our current thoroughbred handicapping experts made the tournament. Both Bob Ike and Rob Henie are in the tournament. Rob even has two entries.

Now what other free newsletter can boast two of the top 570 handicappers in the country are regular contributors? We’ll be following their progress. In fact, some of our subscribers might even be in the tourney. Let us know if you are.

The tournament works like this. Friday and Saturday each person is given a mythical $2 win and $2 place bet. They bet eight mandatory races and 10 optional races from a pool of eight tracks that include Santa Anita and Golden Gate.

After Saturday, they cut to the top 70 and ties and move on to Sunday morning’s semifinal round of 10 optional races. Then they take the top 10 and ties and move to the final round in the afternoon of seven mandatory races.

A race of $6,250 claimers at Golden Gate has never been more important.

Here’s some more stats:

--Santa Anita had 39 players who listed that track as their first qualifier. (Remember, some people qualified at more than one place.) It’s the most of any racetrack. Los Alamitos had 12 and Del Mar 10.

--California led all states, not a surprise, with 78 people who list the state as their primary residence. San Diego led all California cities with six.

--The bulk of entrants came from online sites and Guess that internet thing is going to last.

Still want more? We have links to a couple of question and answer sessions with contributor Jennie Rees.

--Here’s what defending champion Ray Arsenault has to say about his experience at NHC. Just click here.

--And here’s a conversation with first-timer Kyle King. Just click here.

And finally, the players were asked to answer a few questions, and here’s what some said about what they would do with $800,000 if they won. (My answer would be staying someplace nice at the Kentucky Derby, which should exhaust most of the money.)

Jason Avila of Long Beach: “Buy my cats gold flea collars.”

Cheryl Kaufman of Hacienda Heights: “I guess I will have a lot to think about what good I could do after I win.”

Donald Menaguale of Corona del Mar: “Increase travel. Perhaps purchase a vacation apartment in Paris or British Columbia. Increase charitable donations, especially horse-racing related charities.”

William Shurman of Danville: “Pay all the taxes due, then save the rest for when the iPhone XI comes out.

(Note: My nephew once won a ton of money on “Jeopardy,” and he said there is an IRS guy right there when you walk off the stage. So, I’m guessing you won’t even make it to the buffet before paying your taxes.)

Good luck to all, but especially Bob and Rob and our subscribers.

Helping Les Onaka

For the past year, every once in a while I get a question of where Les Onaka of TVG has gone. He was a mainstay covering Los Alamitos, making picks and offering commentary. Well, sad to report that Les has fallen on hard times healthwise. This isn’t anything new, he’s battled these issues for a while. So, he needs some help to continue his fight and a GoFundMe page has been set up for him. Visit the site by clicking here and get caught up on his situation.

Santa Anita preview

Slightly better than average Thursday card with three races with a purse in the neighborhood of $55,000. The second and third races have troublesome six-horse fields but everything else seems well stocked. So, on the whole, a good day.

The second race is likely considered the feature, a six-furlong allowance for Cal-breds 4 years old. The eighth race, one of three on the turf, is an allowance/optional claimer going a mile.

The field sizes, in order, are: 9, 6, 6, 8, 8, 10, 10 (1 also eligible), 12 (1 AE).

Golden Gate weekend preview

Now a look at the best racing coming up at Golden Gate. New race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman is our host to previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“The feature race at Golden Gate Fields this week is the $50,000 California Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Leading the local cast of characters are Aniva Bay and Divine Mercy, the top two finishers in an allowance race last December, and Bornonvalentineday, who has rattled off two impressive victories for well-respected trainer Tim McCanna.

“Four Southern California invaders add intrigue to the race. Two of the four entrants, Mapit and Dr. Ann, come into this stake off maiden wins at Santa Anita. A third filly, Consolida, has been training in Southern California with Paddy Gallagher and makes her first start in the U.S., while Tinabud comes off an allowance optional claiming score at Santa Anita and makes her stakes debut for the Bill E. Morey barn. The California Oaks goes as the seventh race on the nine-race card, with a scheduled post time of 3:45 PM.

“An interesting first-time starter headlines a maiden special weight field this weekend. J and L, who debuts for the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, RNA’d for $500,000 and makes his first career start in the sixth race Saturday. This son of Medaglia D’Oro is out of the mare Achieving, who has produced two stakes winners: $272,000 earner Counterforce and European stakes performer Arabian Hope. Also entered in the same race is Southern California invader Liberal Lunacy.

“To end things, we’ll make a quick note that William Antongeorgi III is four wins away from 1,000 career victories while Francisco Duran is just one win shy of 1,500 career trips to the winner’s circle. We wish Francisco and “Billy the Kid” the best of luck in achieving these milestones, which this announcer knows is an exciting accomplishment for both riders.”

Bob Ike’s SA play of the day

SEVENTH RACE No. 8 River Boyne (5-2)

Sophomore colt from the Jeff Mullins barn was an impressive maiden winner here on opening day and looks like he can repeat in this first-level allowance spot. He clearly liked this course with a romping five-length win, so hopefully the shorter distance (going from 1 1/8 miles to 1 mile) won't compromise his late run.

Sunday Result: NoCal shipper Kochees ($7.00) was a very comfortable winner in eighth race.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Final thought

Still looking to jump the circulation of this newsletter. Can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, then you’re probably not reading this. Either way, send it to a friend and just have them click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more.

Any thoughts, drop me an email at my new address or feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, February 8.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 25th day of a 59-day meet.


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $54,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Pegasus PartyGeovanni Franco122Michael Machowsky5-1
2LetsgotomarfatexasModesto Linares122Vernon E. Aguayo30-1
3Perfect PortraitStewart Elliott122Neil French8-1
4Dee Way to GoTyler Baze122Jorge Periban15-1
5My ScarlettAlonso Quinonez122Jorge Periban20-1
6WishfulDiego Sanchez122Leonard Powell8-1
7An Eddie SurpriseMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill6-5
8Nana's RuleJuan Ochoa122Nestor M. Capitaine20-1
9Nothing But HeatCorey Nakatani122Peter Eurton5-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $56,000. Allowance. 4 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tribal RoarTyler Baze120Genaro Vallejo10-1
2Miracle MarchRajiv Maragh122John W. Sadler8-1
3GigantisTiago Pereira120Bruce Headley5-2
4Hardcore TroubadorRuben Fuentes122Edward R. Freeman3-1
5Swiss MinisterBrayan Pena122Genaro Vallejo7-2
6PortandoFlavien Prat122Michael W. McCarthy2-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. Fillies. 4 year olds. Claiming Price $32,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1BetdesilvergoldTom Lefranc114Michael Machowsky10-132,000
2VaiTyler Conner121Mark Glatt5-132,000
3Kentan RoadJoseph Talamo121John W. Sadler7-232,000
4Fair RegisRafael Bejarano121Robert N. Falcone, Jr.3-132,000
5Starr of QualityGeovanni Franco121David Jacobson7-232,000
6Li'l GrazenTiago Pereira123Jack Carava2-132,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Divine SparkDrayden Van Dyke123Bob Baffert6-116,000
2Tee Em EyeMaria Falgione113Michael Machowsky5-216,000
3Sally SimpsonJoseph Talamo123Patricia Harrington10-116,000
4Pomp and PartyStewart Elliott123Philip D'Amato2-116,000
5She'sluckythatwayAlonso Quinonez123James F. Sayler15-116,000
6Tuscany BeautyTiago Pereira123Jack Carava10-116,000
7Coronado CoolGeovanni Franco123J. Eric Kruljac6-116,000
8Winner's DreamMartin Pedroza123Jack Carava6-116,000


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $29,000. Maiden Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Captain RonMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-250,000
2Bob's Bad BoyStewart Elliott122Mike Harrington12-150,000
3Taste's LegendGeovanni Franco122Marsha D. Schwizer5-150,000
4KopitarAustin Solis120Philip D'Amato8-540,000
5Secret BendVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy20-150,000
6Glorious CrownRajiv Maragh122Robert B. Hess, Jr.4-150,000
7HarlissTyler Baze122Val Brinkerhoff8-150,000
8Dixie RivalEdgar Payeras115Bobby Wayne Grayson20-150,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $14,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $6,250.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Rim DitchMaria Falgione111Victor Fernandez8-16,250
2Mizter Kool CatChristian Aragon121Mike Harrington30-16,250
3Stoneys Mr CruiserTiago Pereira123Charles S. Treece6-16,250
4Four GaelsEdgar Payeras114Kelly Castaneda6-16,250
5IndavidualistMatt Garcia121Gary Stute5-16,250
6Black Tie 'n TailsStewart Elliott121Peter Miller7-26,250
7Mr. LouisFranklin Ceballos116John W. Sadler8-16,250
8Pat the BearCesar Franco114Javier Jose Sierra6-16,250
9AjacBrayan Pena121Marcelo Polanco10-16,250
10BargainingJuan Sanchez121Jose Jesus Avalos6-16,250


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $56,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $75,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Magic MusketierKent Desormeaux120Jerry Hollendorfer6-1
2MinosoMartin Pedroza120Matthew Chew20-1
3Move Over Mike Smith120John W. Sadler3-1
4Martin RiggsRajiv Maragh120Mark Glatt8-1
5Tap FeverTyler Conner120Jerry Hollendorfer10-1
6KylemoreRafael Bejarano120Eoin G. Harty6-1
7Platinum EquityGeovanni Franco120Richard Baltas15-1
8River Boyne Flavien Prat120Jeff Mullins5-2
9Buckstopper KitTyler Baze120Jeff Mullins8-1
10Here Is HappyJoseph Talamo120Craig Anthony Lewis15-175,000
Also Eligible
11Dynamic DuoCesar Franco113Charles R. Stutts50-175,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Ocean BoundFranklin Ceballos117Steven Miyadi7-220,000
2Magnificent Q TVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy6-120,000
3Bragging RightsTyler Baze122John W. Sadler9-220,000
4Yolanda's StoneStewart Elliott122Raymond J. Bell20-120,000
5Starship TreasureManuel Chaves122Howard L. Zucker6-120,000
6Dixie LassieModesto Linares122John C. Ivory30-120,000
7LanacakesRuben Fuentes122Paul G. Aguirre4-120,000
8Rossmoor WayEdgar Payeras115Mike Harrington30-120,000
9Mi PajaritoCesar Franco115Jorge Periban15-120,000
10California CactusTom Lefranc115Felix L. Gonzalez50-120,000
11Cinnamon TwistJoseph Talamo122Simon Callaghan4-120,000
12Mergie TroidGeovanni Franco122Alfredo Marquez30-120,000
Also Eligible
13Sunny SweetSantiago Gonzalez122Antonio Garcia15-120,000